Their huge empire stretched all the way from northern Britain to the Egyptian desert.
But it seems the all-conquering Romans had an unexpected Achilles’ Heel in the grim British weather.
Settlers suffered from poor health due to a lack of sunlight and a poor diet after they established Londinium in the 1st century AD, according to scientists.
Researchers at the Museum Of London are carrying out forensic tests on some of their 22,000 carefully-preserved skeletons of Londoners through the ages.
Lead scientist Dr Jelena Bekvalac said her team is focusing on the declining health of settlers during the 400 years of the Roman occupation.
She told the Times: ‘You’d think in civilised Roman society, there would be buffers to aid you, but the climate is still going to have an effect and we see some signs of that.
‘There may also have been illnesses that they were more susceptible to than the local population.’
The Romans’ advanced standard of living has been well-chronicled and included building cities next to waterways, under-housing heating and public baths.
But settlers succumbed to malnourishment, due to a lack of fruit in London at the time, and illnesses caused by their damp environment, such as the flu.
The Romans buried their dead outside Londinium’s city walls in the Western Cemetery, located under St Bartholomew’s Hospital near St Paul’s, and the Southern Cemetery, along the south side of the Thames in Borough.
Archaeologists at these sites unearthed skeletons buried next to personal items including coins, toys and jewellery.
The Museum Of London researchers found that 18 per cent of men buried in the Southern Cemetery suffered from gout, brought about by a lack of Vitamin C, as well as excessive consumption of alcohol and meat.
Eighty per cent of the remains at the Western Cemetery showed pits and furrows in tooth enamel.
The condition occurs when the natural process of tooth growth is interrupted, leading scientists to the conclusion that growing up in Londinium left settlers malnourished and suffering from general ill-health.
The Museum Of London’s skeleton collection is the largest in the world for one city.
Earlier this year, scientists revealed how climate change could have been responsible for bringing down the Roman Empire.
Researchers studied ancient tree growth rings to show links between climate change and major events in human history such as migrations, plagues and the rise and fall of empires.
They discovered that periods of warm, wet weather coincided with period of prosperity, while droughts or varying conditions occurred at times of political upheaval such as the demise of the Roman Empire.
To match the environmental record with the historical one, researchers looked at more than 7,200 tree fossils from the past 2,500 years.
The study, published in the journal Science, said: ‘Increased climate variability from AD 250 to 600 coincided with the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period.
‘Distinct drying in the third century paralleled a period of serious crisis in the western Roman Empire marked by barbarian invasion, political turmoil and economic dislocation in several provinces in Gaul.’
Filed under: Archaeology, Historia, Rome, Archaeology, army, empire, health, London, Rome, settlements, UK